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EDITIONS
NEWS Tuesday, 9 March, 1999, 20:21 GMT
Help for older unemployed
budget measures for industry
The over-50s will benefit from Budget measures designed to encourage them to return to work.

They will be given a guaranteed minimum income of £9,000 for the first year back in full-time work.

The chancellor said: "Nearly 30% of men over 50 are outside the labour force, twice as many as 20 years ago. We need their talents."

The employment tax credit will provide £170 a week to encourage them back to work. It will be a top-up similar to the Working Families Tax Credit, which will be tapered as people earn more.

There will also be a £750 in-work training grant to help them get accredited training, and a voluntary personalised advice service.

At present many people in this category have taken early retirement, or are receiving state incapacity benefit.

The measures will cost the government £110m a year.

John Monks, the TUC General Secretary, said:

"We warmly welcome the jobs package for older workers, which goes some way to meeting our budget priority that the New Deal should be strengthened.

"However, many of the problems encountered by older people are directly attributed to the long term decline in manufacturing, so the government needs to take urgent action to stem the current escalation of job losses in this sector."

Housing reform

The chancellor also foreshadowed a further reform in the system of housing benefit, which is another disincentive for many people to return to work.

"Over time I want this better deal for work to include help with housing costs, not just help with rent but also help for homeowners going back to work. Taking a job should not put them in danger of losing their homes," he said.

The present system of housing benefit does not currently cover any costs of owner-occupation, and those who receive means-tested benefits have to pay the first nine months of mortgage interest themselves.

Campaigners have long argued for a universal housing benefit that treats owner-occupiers and those renting equally.

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